St. Mark's Episcopal Church

124 North Sylvia Street - Montesano, WA, 98563

Christmas Eve Sermon 2014

Outdoor holiday decorations seem to be quite irresistible for pranksters who just want to go out and have a little fun, right?  At Halloween you see the work of the pumpkin smashers.  Then, at Christmas season all those beautiful displays of colorful lights, inflatable snowmen and reindeer and the nativity scenes are so tempting.  Every year there are reports of stolen Christmas displays, some even figures from Nativity scenes are taken.  In one city the problem was so persistent that if you looked closely at the life sized figures in a particular park you might actually notice the Baby Jesus was chained to the ground, ensuring that no prankster would carry it off.
According to Michael Stolyar, a public relations agent for Brickhouse Security, there are many stories about the stolen Baby Jesus figures, some of which were quite costly to replace.  So Brickhouse now runs a GPS Jesus program.  They have been loaning out satellite tracking equipment to churches and nonprofits nationwide for about nine years.  A small box is embedded inside the Baby Jesus figurine so that if the figure is disrupted a message is quickly sent out and the culprit can be found.  Baby Jesus was reported missing on December, returned by the thieves on December 11, as reported by the Indianapolis Star and USA Today, according to Google.
The pastor at Trinity Baptist Church reports someone stole the Baby Jesus from their display just over a week ago.  For now a lamb will take the place of Baby Jesus.  (We do speak of Jesus as the Lamb of God, so how appropriate.)
Another story—NBC reported the Baby Jesus stolen from a Nativity set in a yard in Coral Gables, Florida has been found.  A Miami Dade County police officer and his wife saw stories about the missing statue and helped lead to its recovery.  The statue was discovered near a dumpster and returned to its owner.  It needed a little cleaning up but the owners were overjoyed to have it back in their manger.
To my knowledge our town’s Nativity display has never been vandalized and has been placed in Fleet Park annually for many years.  We can be most thankful for that. Perhaps no one wants to hassle heavy pieces of plywood around.
This story came from a Canadian town called Moose Jaw.  Thieves stole a Baby Jesus from a family’s Nativity scene three years ago and then returned it with this note, “So not really sure how to explain this to you.  Three years ago we were extremely intoxicated and thought we’d return it after stumbling upon it in the garage—we pray you’re not terribly upset with us.  We just wanted to return the item to the rightful owner.”  At least these two young persons matured to a place of feeling remorse and did the right thing by returning the long lost baby figurine.
Last story—A sign board of the Cedarville United Presbyterian Church reads: Praise God for the baby in the manger.  Thank you for bringing ours back.  Another wrong made right.  AMEN!
Even though St. Mark’s doesn’t have its own stolen Baby Jesus story there was time when Baby Jesus was lost.  It’s been a few years ago on Christmas Eve shortly before it was time for the service to begin when we couldn’t find the Baby Jesus.  The manger was empty, no Baby Jesus there.  We said to each other frantically. “Where is the Baby Jesus? We can’t find him.  Where can he be?”  A few extremely tense minutes passed as we looked upstairs, downstairs, in the sacristy and every closet and storage place until finally he was found, then placed safely in the manger.  We all took a deep breath and the service began only a few minutes late.
It’s true, of course, you can’t keep Jesus in the manger by means of chains.  And the real Jesus has no GPS system so that he might be easily found.  We all encounter Jesus all the time, sometimes in places that take us by surprise.  I wasn’t feeling quite up to par yesterday but still needed to make one more trip to Thriftway.  The store was busy of course, yet I met staff and acquaintances greeting me with hi and a smile and a Merry Christmas.  Thankfully I had only a short list and as I returned to my car I realized I was feeling considerably better from those simple acts of kindness.
As we listened to this familiar story of Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem, we are reminded of God’s glory breaking into the lives of the humble and poor changing our world forever.
We know Jesus is present at the weekly meal which our priest, Sarah Monroe, facilitates at St. Andrew’s, Aberdeen.  We are providing that meal on Sunday so that those who aren’t having such a great Christmas will find a warm, dry place and a nourishing dinner with Christmas cookies for dessert.  In that place Jesus’ love will be made known to them.
Yes, Jesus’ birth took place long ago and faraway but he didn’t say there only in that place.  The Good News, His message of compassion and caring for all people has been birthed into this world and is continually breaking open the hearts of people everywhere and anywhere.
Jesus is present here and now in every selfless act offered to another.  Jesus is present again and again wherever, whenever those who suffer, grieve or struggle, encounter persons willing to minister and serve.
So, We might pay attention, for surely Jesus will be showing up over and over right here in Montesano.  No one need go out and steal a Baby Jesus, he’s right here for all, forever.  AMEN.

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